WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation was introduced this week to help state and local law enforcement obtain screening equipment to quickly detect dangerous drugs like the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl so that authorities can investigate appropriately.
The Providing Officers with Electronic Resources (POWER) Act – introduced by U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ed Markey (D-MA) – would establish a new grant program through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to help state and local law enforcement organizations secure these high-tech, portable screening devices.
“Fentanyl continues to ravage communities in Ohio and across the country. Law enforcement and other first responders need all the tools available to detect and stop fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin. The POWER Act will help provide officers with devices to screen and identify fentanyl and other synthetic drugs more quickly and efficiently,” Portman said.
“Law enforcement officers are on the frontlines of our efforts to combat illegal fentanyl,” Brown said. “Following our success in securing new screening devices for federal law enforcement agents earlier this year, we need to give Ohio officers the same tools to detect these dangerous drugs.”
“As the opioid epidemic continues to ravage communities throughout Florida, it is clear we must do more to ensure that first responders have access to the right tools to protect themselves and ensure public safety,” Rubio said. “This bill will do that by helping to equip local law enforcement with additional chemical screening devices to help detect and interdict dangerous substances that are destroying so many lives.”
“Not only has the opioid epidemic taken the lives of so many Americans, but it continues to endanger the lives of law enforcement officials by exposing them to illegal and fatal substances such as fentanyl,” Schumer said. “It is our responsibility to protect the men and women who bravely put themselves in harm’s way to ensure the public safety of Americans by providing them with the proper resources to do their job. This bill and these screening devices will help keep law enforcement safe and allow them to work more efficiently while on the front lines fighting the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities.”
“As the opioid epidemic continues to harm communities in West Virginia, the POWER Act will help detect and stop the flow of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids,” Capito said. “This legislation will support our local law enforcement—who are often times at the front lines fighting this epidemic—by providing them with the tools necessary to keep these deadly drugs out of our communities. I will continue working with my colleagues to advance solutions like the POWER Act, which will go a long way in saving lives and curbing the drug crisis.”
“Police officers, paramedics, and other first responders face tremendous danger when responding to scenes where fentanyl and other dangerous substances are present. We must do everything we can to shield law enforcement officers in Massachusetts and across the country from the dangers of fentanyl as they serve and protect our communities. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important legislation to provide law enforcement with tools to immediately identify fentanyl and other illicit synthetic opioids,” Markey said.
The POWER Act gives law enforcement officers access to the same high-tech screening devices Markey, Brown, Rubio and Capito secured for Customs and Border Protection agents in the INTERDICT Act. President Trump signed INTERDICT into law earlier this year.
These devices are already widely used by federal law enforcement to identify dangerous drugs at U.S. ports of entry. The devices use laser technology to analyze potentially harmful substances – even through some packaging – and identify those substances based on a library of thousands of compounds that are categorized within the device.
The devices could also help address the backlog of drugs awaiting laboratory identification which will allow law enforcement to more effectively conduct drug investigations and prosecutions. Without these devices, suspected drugs have to be sent to labs for testing – which can take months in some cases, delaying the justice system. And because the devices can quickly and effectively alert officers to dangerous substances in the field, they also help ensure officers can test and handle substances like fentanyl safely.
The POWER Act is supported by the National Sheriffs’ Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, National Association of Police Organizations, National HIDTA Directors Association, Sergeants Benevolent Association, International Union of Police Associations, National Narcotics Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, National Alliance of State Drug Enforcement Agencies, National Tactical Officers Association, Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association, and Ohio Fraternal Order of Police.